RowGlobal talks to Inge Janssen of the Dutch Women’s Quad

  • Inge, thanks for chatting. First of all, how is preparation for Rio going?

It’s going well! The quad has remained unchanged since last year so that has given us so much more time and space to prepare! We’ve made a good plan, trained hard and used all the extra time to make some technical adjustments and improvements as a crew. We’ve had some really good training camps and trips too which have allowed us to make big steps on a personal level and then obviously transfer these to the quad. I’m just really excited the racing has finally started now.

 

  • How did you first get involved in rowing? What persuaded you to race and train at an elite level?

I started rowing when I was 18 and moved to Utrecht for college. I wanted to join a sports club to stay active, meet new people and go to parties so I joined the student rowing club ORCA, learned to row and after a few weeks I got convinced to train for the freshmen’s eight. I was not planning on becoming an elite rower, but little by little I found I had talent and a before untapped sense of ambition. The fact that we had a really successful freshmen’s eight really helped inspire all of us to continue.

 

  • You first raced in the pair at the U23 World Championships. Why did you switch to sculling?

After U23’s my partner Ellen Hogerwerff and I were invited to the trials for the 2008 women’s eight, but failed to get a place. Our options were to continue in either the pair or the double. Although we were not experienced scullers we somehow did make the single go fairly fast and since there already was a women’s pair (the spares for the eight), we tried the double and it worked. Even though I wasn’t a bad sweep rower, I still feel that sculling fits me better.

 

  • Having just moved up to the senior team, how exciting was it to be selected for the 2012 games?

Really excited! Ellen and I had to leave the national team, but were encouraged to try to qualify the double ourselves. This meant training at our own clubs with our own coaches, which made the project even more fun! It was all very exciting- we were gaining experience and had nothing to lose. Everyone really wanted us to do well, but we didn’t feel any serious pressure other than wanting it really badly for our own sakes. When we actually qualified it was a dream come true, the adventure since then has just continued!

 

  • You raced in the double sculls in 2012, finishing second in the ‘B’ final. What did you think of that result at the time?

We were happy with the result, it was my first year as a senior rower! We came to the Olympics in 10th position and really wanted to move up as many places as possible. Realistically we knew that the gap between the top five and top ten was just too big to break through at that moment so we were content to just row as well as possible and soak up the Olympic experience. We had a decent stab at it (finishing 8th) but we agreed that this was just the beginning, in 4 years we would come back and win a medal.

 

  • Dutch rowing seems to be improving all the time – how important is the sport in your country?

It definitely has ups and downs but we have a fairly big team and at the moment we’re doing fairly well. We row a lot of A-finals but aren’t always able to secure the big prizes. Rowing is a big student sport, most Dutch rowers didn’t start rowing till they were 18 or 19 years old. On the one hand that gives rowing a unique character, but it also means we start late and those that may be very suited to the sport but don’t go to college aren’t getting a look in. Except during the Olympics, rowing doesn’t get a lot media attention. The main focus is definitely fixed on football, speed skating, swimming and more recently (since Dafne Schippers won gold at the 200m last year), athletics as well. It would be awesome for rowing to get more attention so that is definitely another incentive to do well.

 

  • You raced in the single after the Olympics – how tough was that, having raced in crew boats before? Do you enjoy the single?

I started rowing in the single because that was the easiest to combine with an internship I was doing at the time. I got a new coach from my club, Reinder Nijhoff, and we wanted to win nationals. It really became one of the best years of my career, everything went so well and on top of that I had so much fun! Because you can only depend on yourself, we were capable of competing in a lot of races and we even went on a training camp to Indonesia, to train under my old freshmen coach Boudewijn van Opstal, who is now the head coach of Indonesia. All the positive experiences of that year really made me go faster and I also learned a lot. I ended up staying in the single for the entire year and really loved it! I went on rowing in the double the year after and found I did welcome the prospect of rowing with a team-mate again. It’s just sad you can’t race all boat classes at the same time! I do still cherish the freedom and flexibility I had that year in the single, and if I continue after Rio, I will definitely be tempted to revisit it.

 

  • The quad has been moving well this year, after a bronze medal last year. How important is it to close the gap on Germany and the USA?

That is ultimately what we are training for every day! Even though we were happy with the silver at europeans and the bronze at worlds, you can’t deny the disappointment of not winning, it’s always going to be what hits you first when you cross the line after setting out for a gold. Inevitably you want to be the fastest boat and I really believe we are a crew that can succeed in being the fastest, but it’s an easy thing to say when every other crew has the same self-belief. It’s about keeping your head cool, performing consistently and improving with every training and every race- the four of us are very motivated.

 

  • You finished second in Italy a few weeks ago – did you expect Poland to be that fast?

I always expect Poland to be fast. To be honest, I expect everyone to be fast. Our field is normally fairly small, but all the boats that compete are fast and the margins are ridiculously small. After a really good winter we definitely were disappointed to not win the race in Varese but it was the first race and the difference in times was minimal. We will definitely use this experience to build on and improve so we can try to beat them next time!

 

  • Will you guys be racing at Henley Royal Regatta this year?

No, sadly not. I’ve never raced at Henley, but I really want to. We did discuss it, but to do it we would have to sacrifice Poznan and an extra training camp which we decided would be better preparation for us with Rio in mind.

 

  • What are your personal aims for Rio?

I think my personal aims are exactly the same as that of my team-mates. We are in it for the medals, but we don’t want to seem to fixated on the gold but I hate losing and I really think we are capable of winning a medal, even the golden one! I know it’s going to be the toughest race of my life but by the time it rolls around we will be ready for it.

 

  • What is your favourite training session, and why?

I like everything in the boat when it’s done side by side. The more competitive it is, the better. It doesn’t matter whether they are steady rate or high-rating pieces. For some reason I’m able to row better and more efficiently when I just want to beat someone next to me. We do train a lot with the women’s eight at the moment or we split up in two doubles to create our own competition. Weight sessions are my least favourite, I them boring and it doesn’t help that, besides bench press, I’m not especially good at them.

 

  • Where is your favourite location to race and train, and why?

I love training in Seville. I’ve been there so many times with my club and later on with the national team, so I have so many good memories there. Normally I get bored very easily at training camps, but not in Seville. I like how you can stay in apartments, drink coffee in the squares and get lost in the older parts of the town on a free afternoon. One of my best races was in Seville as well, as I won my first senior medal there at the 2013 European championships in the single.

Picture credit Merijn Soeters

Matilda Bywater

Having rowed for a number of years, Matilda has decided the sport may be better observed from the bank as opposed to the bows of a coxed four. Having finished school in the summer of 2015, she is now pursuing journalistic opportunities with a number of publications on her gap year. She is also planning to visit three continents in the space of six months.

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